This is a series of posts surrounding my goal of focusing on patience in 2017, specifically my retreat day of patience on January 5th. To read more in the series, click on the "patience" tag at the top of this post.
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.” Psalm 33:20,22
The city is an enemy of patience. It’s always moving and part of its success demands that it must continue on quickly. There is no time for idleness, for movement is the key to urban prosperity.
All that changes on a snow day, however. The city comes to a crawl. It projects a peacefulness that is rarely seen. The roads are less traveled on. While the traffic lights continue to change, sometimes no one is there to notice.
Up the street from our house, there’s a little coffee shop on the corner of the major road. It’s only a ten-minute drive from my house, but I’ve never been there. I decided that it would serve as the first stop on my day of patience.
This isn’t your typical hipster, third-wave kind of coffee place. It sits on the corner of an economically distressed community. This storefront sat vacant for decades until recently revived by a grant. It employs local residents. I felt a little bad because, for over an hour, I was the only person sitting there.
Normally at a coffee shop, I make sure my headphones are at the ready to hide the noise around me. But on this day, as I grapple with what it means to wait, I’m trying to listen a little more intently than I normally do. And even though the hum of the ancient Gatorade drink cooler next to my chair is loud, it’s not significant enough to mute the noise of the adjacent interstate.
The employees sit at a table by the door and chitchat about life. They look out the window and make occasional comments about a passing pedestrian or the make of a vehicle driving by. Their conversation meanders from one place to the next with absolutely no direction. They are fully content to talk about absolutely nothing.
Every few minutes one of them gets up to perform a simple task around the coffee shop but they’ve already accomplished virtually everything they can think of. I know this because they talk about it and make a list of everything they’ve done so far that morning. Again, the conversation continues to go everywhere but nowhere. And it bothers me a little bit.
Don’t get me wrong: I love to grab a cup of coffee and chat with a friend for an hour. But my framework of time and productivity leave me wanting conversations to “go” someplace—to produce some sort of take-away that makes it all worthwhile. This doesn’t mean I don’t love and value the people with whom I’m talking, but I want things to be further down the road since the last time we talked.
I know very well that life doesn’t work like this. But I secretly want it do.
And even though one of my greatest strengths is building deep relationships with people, my lack of patience negatively affects it in some instances. The lesson learned is continue to work on what I did in 2016: I need to continue to listen better. Rather than to use my silent time in conversation to craft my next comment, I’d still do better to ruminate on the words of the person across from me.